Writing family history is always an unfinished process, and from time to time you find yourself going back over old ground, bringing your findings up to date and adding odd snippets of new information. I’ve written before about my great great great grandmother Eliza Roe, nee Holdsworth, and about the links between the Roe, Holdsworth and Blanch families (see these posts). But it’s probably time to bring some different pieces of information together and try to make sense of what we know.
First, a bit of background. My mother, Joyce Alma Londors (born 1933) is the daughter of George John Londors (1896 – 1961) and Minnie Louisa Roe (1902 – 1987). Minnie – my Nan – was the daughter of Joseph Priestley Roe (1862 – 1946), who was himself the son of shoemaker Daniel Roe (born in 1829) and Mary Ann Blanch (1827 – 1870).
Daniel Roe, my great great grandfather, was born in Biggleswade, Bedfordshire, the third of the five children of another Daniel Roe, also a shoemaker, born in about 1800, who kept premises in Stratton Street in the town. In 1825 Daniel Roe senior, my great great great grandfather, had married Eliza Holdsworth at the parish church in nearby Blunham.
Daniel Roe senior died in 1836, and five years later, at the time of the 1841 census, his widow Eliza and their children can be found still living in Biggleswade. The census record appears to claim that Eliza was born in Bedfordshire. However, this conflicts with evidence uncovered by other Roe and Holdsworth family historians, according to whom Eliza Holdsworth was born in 1801 in Mile End Old Town, the daughter of carpenter William Holdsworth and his wife Lydia Evins.
It would appear that William was born in 1771 and Lydia in 1770. They were married on 26th November 1792 at St Botolph’s church in Bishopsgate. Six years later, they were admitted into membership at Little Alie Street Baptist Chapel in Stepney. They seem to have been living in Marmaduke Street, Stepney, at the time, while the chapel records show that in 1800 and 1803 they lived in Mile End Road (which was where Eliza was born), and in 1806 William’s address is given as Wilmott Street. William and Lydia Holdsworth had three children before Eliza - Isaac (1794), Samuel (1795) and Phoebe (1796) – and two after her – Edward (1803) and Sarah Ann (1806).
William Holdsworth was the youngest son of Joseph Holdsworth (1735 -1795) and Elizabeth Greene (1732 – 1809), who were married in Bermondsey in 1763. Their oldest son – William’s older brother – was John Holdsworth (1765 – 1848), who married Eliza Ann Webb and had 6 children, one of whom was named Keziah (1804 – 1881). It was Keziah (Eliza Holdsworth’s cousin) who married shoemaker John Blanch (1801 – 1869) in Limehouse in 1827. That same year, their first child, Mary Ann, was born. It was Mary Ann who in 1848 would marry Eliza Holdsworth Roe’s son Daniel. Thus, as I’ve noted before, Daniel’s mother-in-law (Keziah) was also his mother’s cousin.
It’s not difficult to see how Daniel came to meet his future wife. After his father’s death, the family stayed in Biggleswade for a few years, but then must have moved either individually or together to be closer to their Holdsworth relations. Daniel’s older sister Anna (or Hannah) Maria died in Biggleswade in 1844, aged 18 (she was buried next to the local Baptist meeting-house), while his older brother Richard probably stayed in the Bedfordshire/Hertfordshire area (he would marry Fanny Debney in Layston in 1851 and they would later emigrate to Australia).
Daniel himself must have been in London by 1848 at the latest. I can’t find his younger sister Eliza in the 1851 census, or a record of her marriage to Thomas Parker of Bethnal Green, but it must have been by the early 1850s, as their daughter Hannah was born in 1853 in Southwark. As for Daniel’s younger brother Caleb, he was still in Stratton Street, Biggleswade in 1851 (when he would have been 17 or 18), working as a general servant in the household of a solicitor. However, it was only five years later, in 1856, that he married Sabina Collinson in Bethnal Green, his address being given as Albion Buildings.
Finally, Eliza Holdsworth Roe herself – Daniel’s mother – must have been in London by the early 1840s, as it was in 1845 that she married for a second time, to John Sharp, at the church of St. George’s in the East, giving her address as Chapel Street. The marriage record more or less confirms the London-Bedfordshire connection: Eliza gives her surname as Roe, describing herself as a widow, while her father’s name is given as William Holdsworth, carpenter.
So it seems likely that Eliza moved with at least some of her children from Biggleswade to the Bethnal Green / Stepney area between 1841 and 1845, either setting up home herself, or moving in with her Holdsworth relations, perhaps her cousin Keziah and husband John (they were living in Mile End Old Town in 1841 and Bethnal Green ten years later). It’s easy to imagine young Daniel, son of a shoemaker himself, going to work with (apprenticed to?) John Blanch, the husband of his mother’s cousin, and becoming attached to their daughter Mary Ann (they were both in their late teens / early twenties). Apparently it wasn’t uncommon for journeymen to end up marrying their master’s daughters.
As for how and why Stepney-born Eliza Holdsworth came to move to Bedfordshire in the first place, and to meet Daniel Roe senior, that remains a mystery that we can only guess at. So far, we know little or nothing about Daniel and his origins. Perhaps there was a Baptist connection, or perhaps Eliza came to work (as a servant?) in Blunham and met her future husband that way?
As I’ve written in other posts, Eliza returned to the Bedfordshire / Hertfordshire area after her second marriage, living first in the Buntingford area (not far from where her son Richard lived, suggesting a Roe family connection to the area), then working for the Merry family in Guilden Morden, before moving with them to Devon, and finally returning to London, to live with her daughter Eliza Parker and family in Camberwell, where she probably died some time around 1885.
This photograph, courtesy of Ron Roe, is probably of Eliza in her later years: